The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday upgraded the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from epidemic to pandemic while also agreeing to strengthen cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to further advance the two agencies’ coordinated response to the worldwide outbreak.
Following a meeting on Wednesday at the WHO headquarters in Geneva between director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and a UNWTO delegation, headed by the organization’s secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN agencies stressed the importance of international cooperation and responsible leadership at this critical time.
According to the heads of both UN agencies, tourism can play a key role in both containing the COVID-19 outbreak and leading future response efforts.
“I welcome the director general’s recognition of the role tourism can play both now and in the future,” Pololikashvili said.
Both sides agreed that solidarity from the tourism sector and of individual tourists is important as both have responsibility for helping minimize the spread and impact of COVID-19.
During the meeting, Pololikashvili said that the tourism value chain touches upon every part of society, making tourism uniquely placed to promote solidarity, collaboration and concrete action across borders in these challenging times and also ideally positioned to once again drive future recovery.
Moreover, Pololikashvili and Dr Tedros confirmed the two UN agencies’ commitment to ensuring any response to COVID-19 is proportionate, measured and based on the latest public health recommendations.
They also called for responsible communications and reporting of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. The UN agencies stressed the importance of ensuring all communications and actions are evidence-based so as to avoid stigmatizing sections of society and spreading panic.
According to an announcement, UNWTO and WHO will liaise with UNWTO Members, as well as with the Chairs of all the UNWTO Regional Commissions and the Chair of the Executive Council to further advance tourism’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
UNWTO will also communicate with other UN bodies, including ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) and the IMO (International Maritime Organization), and with IATA (International Air Transport Association) and with key sector stakeholders to ensure tourism’s response is coordinated and consistent.